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Jewish institutions, which have faced attacks in recent years by lone wolves – extremists who draw their inspiration from the like-minded but act on their own -now must be wary of returnees from the Iraq-Syria front. Those radicals have been trained and indoctrinated by the jihadist group ISIS.
ISIS has “not only stated intentions to form a caliphate, but named U.S. and Jewish people as targets specifically,” said John Cohen, who until earlier this year was an undersecretary for intelligence and analysis at the Department of Homeland Security. “There’s a significant threat to Jewish communities.”
The threat became evident with revelations that Mehdi Nemmouche, the suspect in the May 24 shooting attack on the Jewish museum in Brussels that killed four people (including an Israeli couple), had allegedly been active with ISIS in Syria.
It’s not yet clear if Nemmouche was acting on orders, and, if so, whether those orders came from ISIS.
In an interview to the Jewish Exponent, Cohen, now a professor at the Institute for Emergency Preparedness and Homeland Security at Rutgers University, said that when Nemmouche was arrested during a customs inspection of a bus in France, the firearms he carried were wrapped in an ISIS flag. Also, a journalist held captive by ISIS has identified Nemmouche as one of his captors.
Paul Goldenberg, director of the Secure Community Network, which works with national and local Jewish community groups on security issues, said the Brussels attack raised red flags for Jews throughout the world.
“Their first attack outside their theater of combat was a Jewish institution, and it wasn’t even an Israeli institution,” Goldenberg said. “They didn’t attack an embassy, a consulate or NATO headquarters in Brussels. These terrorist are not only inspired, they are also well trained and potentially equipped. They may come back to the Americas, so we must be concerned.”